As the world becomes more populated and technologically advanced, more harm is being done to the environment. That is evident with the worsening case of global warming or climate change. In order to resolve or at least minimize the problem, most countries around the world are already starting to adopt practices that can lower the carbon footprint on the earth.
One of which is the use of renewable energy sources. In fact, there are already some states in the US that are labeled as “solar garden communities”. But before knowing what is a solar garden, it is important to understand the basics of solar power.
Solar power is a type of a renewable electrical power that comes from sunlight. Theoretically speaking, products called solar roof or ground-mount panels are installed on a property towards the direction of the sun. The panel systems will be absorbing the sunlight and will convert them into solar power. Certain electrical cables or wires run from the panels to the property’s electrical circuit. Through such, the solar power will be supplying the electricity of the connected property.
However, not all individuals are capable of having solar panels installed on the properties. That is due to the fact that the products are quite expensive. Additionally, there are certain types of roofs that are not suited for solar panel installations. Thus, some homeowners need to have them renovated first. When it comes to ground-mount solar panels, they require a large outdoor space wherein they can be placed.
With such in regard, experts have started collaborating and created solar gardens in order to have a community that has solar-powered households, buildings, and facilities.
What Is A Solar Garden?
A solar garden is also called as a community-shared solar array. As the name implies, its is a collection of solar electric that has multiple users who are connected to the main utility grid. In a simpler term, the residential, commercial, and faith-based properties in the area can have their own solar power without the need of having them installed on their own property. The solar garden is, of course, installed in a vacant lot in or near the community.
Solar Garden Subscribers and Investors
As an overview as to what is a solar garden subscriber is, it is a home, office, mall, agency, and other facilities that are connected to the solar garden. Meaning, they are the consumers or users of solar power coming from the solar garden. However, to become a subscriber, the property should be within the utility area wherein the solar garden is located.
In order for the solar array to be successfully installed and in order to pay for the solar panels, the community is given two ways in order to finance their own solar garden. One is through the so-called crowdfunding. In this type, a number of investors will be paying for certain numbers of solar panels for them, as well as for the low- and middle-income population within the community.
They will then be paid by those individuals on a monthly basis through a bill credit. The second way of funding or financing a solar garden or array is with the help of a third-party financer. This is the so-called power purchase agreement. As similar to the last one, all the subscribers will be given a bill credit at the end of the month.
As an overview, a bill credit is just like a traditional utility bill. However, the amount to be paid will be based on the solar power consumption of the subscriber, which has been recorded by a “virtual net metering’ system”.
Solar Garden Hosts and Gardeners
Another question that needs to be answered is, “What is a solar garden host?”. Solar garden hosts are the individuals who provide a location wherein the solar array or garden will be placed. They are usually owners of farmlands, private lands, warehouses, and private buildings that are big enough for the solar garden to be installed. Ideally, the solar host must be at least one acre and at most 20 acres near any substations or utility distribution lines. For buildings that will serve as hosts, they must have large roofs.
Solar gardeners, on the other hand, are the trained individuals in the community who have organized the creation of a solar garden. They also include the individuals who will be managing, facilitating, and overseeing the project.
Installation of Solar Gardens
In order to successfully launch a solar garden in a community within a state that already has solar garden policies and programs, the solar gardeners should follow some general steps.
- Organize the building owners and operators of the community and have a meeting with them to discuss the proposed solar garden.
- Upon agreement, they should start finding a solar garden host, as well as investors.
- Get a license and permit to allow the solar garden to connect to the communities electrical grid line.
- Start looking for possible subscribers, especially those who have low incomes.
- Find solar panel installation companies that re interested in bidding for the construction of the solar garden.
Advantages of Solar Gardens
The main advantage of having a solar garden is that even families and individuals who have low incomes will be able to have an environmentally-friendly source of electricity. Thus, they will have a safer community to live in. Another advantage is that even properties that are being shaded with tall trees can have a solar power source.
As an overview, there have already been incidents wherein trees have been cut so that solar panels can be installed on a roof property. That is due to the fact that the trees are blocking the sun’s rays. Since for solar gardens, the panels are already mounted on the ground, all types of properties near the array can be supplied with solar power.
Solar-power-generated communities will also enjoy the benefits of the incentives given by the government. In the US, there are certain states that give tax and utility bill incentives to individuals who use solar power.
Taking the different concepts and facts mentioned above, we can already comprehensively answer the question, “What is a solar garden?”. A solar garden is a community-driven and -sponsored solar power source for all the interested individuals, from all walks of life, within the area. The main aim of the project is to provide solar power to the community without the need for cutting trees as well as renovating each property in the area.